Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Doomed Romance in One Act, and Red-winged Blackbirds at the Willms Road Pond

Well, the romance was over quickly. One display of those bright red shoulder epaulets from the Red-winged Black Bird (Agelaius phoeniceus), and the Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) was completely unimpressed. Off to greener pastures for both of them.
We were on our short excursion on Willms Road near Knights Ferry in the Sierra Nevada foothills when we stopped at our favorite little stock pond out on the California prairie. There are usually some interesting birds hanging out, including the Kingbird in the above drama. We almost always see a crowd of Red-winged Blackbirds in the tules and rushes.
The Red-winged Blackbirds are hard to photograph. It's not so difficult to get the bright flash of the red shoulder epaulettes, but unless the light is just right the black body is featureless. I got lucky with a couple of shots this time, with the sunlight reflecting off the feathers of the breast and head of this individual.

The Blackbirds have a melodic song that is sometimes a high-pitched whistle. The males seem to always be busy trying to catch the attention of the ladies. I guess it is the equivalent of catcalls from construction workers in New York...
The stock pond on Willms Road (two or three miles south of Knights Ferry on Highway 108/120) is our local barometer for the severity of the drought. Most years in late April or May, the hills here are still green, but not so much this year. Compare how it looked in March. The pond has water, but perhaps not as much as it should (it's sometimes hard to judge, as the outlet has suffered some erosion damage so it may not be possible to completely fill the pond anymore). It's one of our favorite spots for a few minutes of serenity that's not all that far from home.

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